Viktoria Zimmer

Same-sex partnerships? Not an obstacle!

“I am very happy to work for a company where I can really be myself.”

Short introduction

Viktoria +++ Leader Human Resources Management +++ has been with the Würth Elektronik personnel department since 2011 +++ lives in a steady relationship with a woman

WE: Viktoria, I've just checked this up. The credo of the “Diversity Charter” Association says:

“All employees shall be valued, regardless of gender and gender identity, nationality and ethnicity, religion or ideology, disability, age, sexual orientation and identity.”

Does this match the objectives at Würth Elektronik?

Viktoria: Definitely. We want to use differences as well as similarities, draw from diversity and generate the best outcomes.

WE: You live in a steady relationship with another woman. What is your experience of acceptance in your personal environment?

Viktoria: I have had a lot of luck and rarely any negative experiences.

WE: Neither privately, nor at work?

Viktoria: No. At least 99% of the time. That probably also has to do with my own attitude of always being open about myself, even in job interviews, when being asked about my personal circumstances.

WE: So you would speak honestly about your personal circumstances?

Viktoria: Yes, that was a very important aspect for me when choosing Würth Elektronik as an employer. I don’t want to work for a company, where I constantly have to worry about people reacting strangely. I wouldn’t have signed up for that. I don’t want to have to hide myself. Especially not in my position in the personnel department. We are committed to creating an open working environment, without prejudice or discrimination.

WE: Does sexual orientation play a role among your colleagues? Is it respected?

Viktoria: Being honest about this aspect feels completely uncomplicated to me, as I don’t know it any other way. This is how everyone got to know me in the first place. Of course, some people reacted surprised at first, it isn’t the “norm”. But I never had any feeling of not being accepted. I can't imagine how it would otherwise work in a corporate culture where we regularly talk about personal and private things. The week often starts with the question “What did you do at the weekend?”, and it would cost a huge amount of effort to always have to think up a semi-true version. My take on it is: if anyone has a problem with it, then I’m not going to make it mine. But, of course, that’s easier said than done, and I consider myself very lucky to have had only positive experiences here.

WE: So it’s not a problem at the Waldenburg site. But you also travel a lot for our company, don’t you?

Viktoria: I have been on regular business trips abroad for about three years now. And, yes, at the beginning I often asked myself how openly I could talk about the subject in other cultural circles, for instance, in India or Asia. Business trips often involve evening events, going out to dinner together, where the conversation often moves on to more personal topics. I decided to be open about my partnership in such situations, too.

WE: Now I’m really curious about what you’ve experienced on such trips.

Viktoria: Family is valued very highly in Asia. A regular conversation opener is about whether you are married and have a family. The initial reaction when I say I have a female partner has often been surprise. I think it’s more uncommon in such cultures. But I have also experienced a lot of openness and curiosity, with colleagues wanting to see a photo of my partner or wanting to know where she works.

WE: Let’s get back to Germany and the HQ. Are there any points that we need to work on here at WE?

Viktoria: I think that our corporate culture already provides a good basis. ‘Appreciation’ is one of our most important values and that has a positive impact on equal treatment. But there are always things that can be impoved.

WE: Such as?

Viktoria: It begins with little things: to what extent are same-sex partnerships taken into account, for instance, in corporate-wide regulations relating to special leave or extra benefits for weddings, childbirth/adoption, etc.? Specific wording can communicate a general mindset and an awareness for diverse lifestyles. Employees notice this, and I think it is wonderful that we included such wording in our general collective agreement some years ago, for example. Sometimes I wonder whether a dedicated position or a liaison officer might be helpful. Not everyone finds it equally easy or difficult to ‘come out’ to their colleagues. This depends very much on previous experiences and the kind of prejudice they may have faced either privately or with a previous employer. Anyone seeking support would then know there is someone they can talk to in confidence.

WE: As I understand it, openness is important, as is being accepted as you are, and being appreciated for what you do.

Viktoria: Absolutely. This really came across when I accepted the invitation to one of our strategy and leadership conferences. Due to the size of our company, this is one of the few official events that includes life partners, so I took my partner along with me. It was interesting. The conference topic happened to be diversity. And I couldn’t help smiling when the moderator said that it would be an expression of practiced diversity if we would feel comfortable bringing our same-sex partner to such an event. We also occasionally take part in WEtality courses, which are always great fun. I am very happy to work for a company where I can really be myself. That is a high motivation factor.